Having a ringside seat at an Aaron Pritchett concert might just get you one of his trademark cowboy hats simply for being there.
“When I get excited about having a great show, I tend to throw them out into the crowd to give them a little memento,” the country crooner says. “I’ve been through hundreds now.”
But don’t expect him to share another fashion accessory he’s known for, one of the earrings he has been wearing consistently for more than 20 years.
“I just got them because I like them. There’s no other reason. I used to tell people I was a pirate, but that didn’t work for too long.”
Pritchett almost abandoned the jewelry when he was playing a club in Vancouver, but the woman tending bar noticed right away and convinced him to put them back in.
“That was in 1995, and I’ve never taken them out since.”
Growing up in the northern B.C. town of Kitimat, Pritchett realized early on what he wanted to do for a living. Sort of.
“I just knew I wanted to entertain people and make them smile and laugh and feel good,” he says. “I knew that from when I was a little child. I didn’t know I was going to be a singer. I thought I was going to be an actor.”
Not that he regrets his career ambition taking a turn toward music.
“What better way for me to connect with an audience than to sing them songs and tell stories in between? I want them to feel like they’re on the stage with me, and I’m in the crowd with them, and we’re just having a really great time.”
Pritchett says he inherited his vocal style from his father, who worked as a longeshoreman and sang with a garage band on the side.
“He was a good singer, but he never got the opportunity to make anything of himself as a singer in a band. Although he did go into these karaoke competitions in his 60s, winning 50 bucks and the meat package.”
As a teenager, Pritchett’s musical tastes were influenced by legendary ’80s rockers such as Van Halen, Def Leppard and Mötley Crüe. At the age of 19, he was singing with some friends in a rock band.
“But I really wasn’t digging it. I loved listening to the music, but I didn’t like singing it that much.”
He opted for country instead.
“I loved the storytelling aspect of it and the fact that you didn’t have to blow your voice every night to entertain crowds. Although I still tend to do that sometimes, just because it’s fun,” he admits.
“I listened to a lot of Merle Haggard and a lot of Willie Nelson back then. That helped me find the happy medium for my voice and add a little rock influence with the country.”
Another of Pritchett’s musical icons from years ago recently crossed his path in a major way.
“I didn’t know I was going to be a singer when I became a Garth Brooks fan. I was just singing in my shower, and that’s it. But all along, I was a huge Garth Brooks fan, buying all his records and learning all of his songs verbatim.”
In late April, Brooks phoned to invite Pritchett to open for him and his wife, Trisha Yearwood, in their concerts in Saskatoon earlier this month.
“It was surreal. I literally was in shock. How could a little guy like me from Vancouver and Kitimat get this opportunity?”
That invitation marked a new high for Pritchett, coming a few years after he started thinking his career was “sort of winding down” and moved to Gabriola Island to take on a second career as owner of a pub.
“It seemed like a good place to semi-retire. I could still do shows here and there, and fly out of Gabriola no problem. Who knew it would all blow up again?”
The recent resurgence in his career means he hasn’t been around much to tend bar and look after day-to-day operations.
“I’ve been there four days in the last two months. It’s kind of sad that I haven’t been back, but I’m really loving the fact that I’ve got this new life in my career and can’t necessarily be at the Silva Bay Pub all the time.”
This week, the singer/publican behind “Hold My Beer” and numerous other rock-flavoured country hits returns to the Yukon to headline the Teslin Rocks Country concert, with opening acts Cory Marquart and Roger Gabriel.
The show takes place Saturday, June 25 in the Teslin Arena, beginning at 9 p.m. For more information go to www.TeslinRocksCountry.com.
There’s no guarantee you’ll get a free hat.